A commercial airliner carrying approximately 150 people has crashed in the French Alps on Tuesday morning, the civil aviation authority in France has confirmed. According to officials, no survivors are expected.
The plane, operated by Lufthansa's low-cost division Germanwing, was flying from Barcelona, Spain to Duesseldorf, Germany when it crashed in a remote, mountainous area near Meolans-Revels, not far from the the popular French ski resort of Pra Loup.
French President Francois Hollande said he believed none of those on board the A320 had survived, while the head of Lufthansa spoke of a dark day for the German airline.
Germanwings confirmed its flight 4U9525 from Barcelona to Duesseldorf crashed in the French Alps with 144 passengers and six crew members on board.
Hollande said: "The conditions of the accident, which have not yet been clarified, lead us to think there are no survivors."
Officials said the plane issued a distress call at 0947 GMT (0547 ET), about 52 minutes after take-off. The accident happened in a snow-clad alpine area that is hard for rescue services to reach.
The Associated Press adds:
The owner of a campground near the crash site, Pierre Polizzi, said he heard the plane making curious noises shortly before it crashed.
"At 11.30, I heard a series of loud noises in the air. There are often fighter jets flying over, so I thought it sounded just like that. I looked outside, but I couldn't see any fighter planes," he told The Associated Press. "The noise I heard was long — like 8 seconds — as if the plane was going more slowly than a military plane speed. There was another long noise after about 30 seconds."
Polizzi said the plane crashed about 5-to-8 kilometers (3-to-11 miles) from his place.
"It's going to be very difficult to get there. The mountain is snowy and very hostile," he said.
There was no obvious reason why the plane went down. Capt. Benoit Zeisser of the Digne-le-Bains police said there were some clouds in the region but the cloud ceiling was not low and there did not appear to be turbulence.
In addition, the safest part of a flight is when the plane is at cruising elevation. Just 10 percent of fatal accidents occur at that point, according to a safety analysis by Boeing. In contrast, takeoff and the initial climb accounts for 14 percent of crashes and final approach and landing accounts for 47 percent.